On my way from Portland to Manchester, I took a small side trip to not only Portsmouth, NH but also Keene, NH because people told me it was a picturesque, historic New England town.
The Keene Public Library caught my eye, a historic home (to the left) with a wing added (right).
The reference librarian steered me to Alan Rumrill, Executive Director of the Historical Society of Cheshire County (above). She said he had more stories than anybody in Keene.
Alan Rumrill told me the story of General James Wilson, a resident of Keene who became a general in the New Hampshire militia in the 1830s and 1840s. When he was called upon to lead men in the Civil War, he declined, saying he was too old.
Wilson was involved in New Hampshire state politics in the 1840s. He had many friends in state government, but he was lured to California by the gold rush. His wife had died, but that didn't stop him from leaving his children and taking a government position in California. His two daughters were in their early teens, and his son even younger.
He corresponded with his daughters, who complained of being stuck in the house. They had to go to school, of course, but “they were not able to have the opportunity to get out and socialize and have financial support to do those things other people were doing in the community,” Mr. Rumrill said. “They also had the care of the younger brother. Wilson didn’t send a lot of money back to his children.”
The general eventually came back to Keene, picked up where he left off, and was elected to the state legislature. He died a local hero, a satisfying American dream come true, for him.
His papers were bequeathed to the Historical Society, where they lay dormant for years. It was only when his correspondence with his children came to light, while two authors researched a book based on the correspondence entitled, “Sisters of Fortune,” that local opinion changed.
“He’s now considered prominent politically, socially, and militarily in the area but is also seen as an inattentive father who was more concerned with doing things that were of interest to him than in caring for his children,” Mr. Rumrill said.
The office of the Historical Society of Cheshire County in Keene, New Hampshire, in a stately mansion that was part of someone's American dream.
Occupy Keene, hard at it mid-day on a weekday, working toward keeping the American dream a possibility for everyone, not just the 1%.